Journal

A Thanksgiving of Unnoticed Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving time here in the United States, and what a strange season we are in.  There’s a war being waged on peaceful indigenous people and their allies in North Dakota, people who are continuing to stand strong to keep the Dakota Access Pipeline from being completed (and eventually poisoning the Missouri river watershed.)  People in high office in this country seem to have missed the history lessons that taught us about the horrors that result from unchecked, systematic racism and the danger that lies in acting from fear, hate, entitlement, and greed. Work hours are long, jobs are lost, people are sick, loved ones are hurting, the dog is getting old.  There are many things to lament.  But we might do ourselves a favor and take a break from the lamenting to give thanks as well.  Gratitude is always possible. Elie Wiesel wrote, “When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.” Continue reading “A Thanksgiving of Unnoticed Gratitude”

A New Better Off: Living the Good Life

Courtney E. Martin, in her new book called The New Better Off argues that our society is moving away from what was once considered “the good life.”  For years, people said things like “well, I want my kids to be better off than I was,” and often times that meant hoping those kids got a steadier job, or a nicer/bigger house, or into a better financial situation.  But perhaps there’s a cost to putting all of life’s meaning under the old definition of “better off.”  In her introduction Martin says,

…what’s more, some of the things we have associated with success actually endanger our health [and leave us unhappy.] Underneath the appearance of uplift, a complex [success] story weighs us down. This could play out in a number of ways…like when people set aside authentic career ambitions in favor of more lucrative paths; or when a father knows his colleagues better than he does his own kids; or a mother leans in so hard she falls flat on her face.  Pressure and debt, missed get togethers, living for the weekend, living someone else’s dream. “Better off” left uninterrogated, can be fucking dangerous.

Continue reading “A New Better Off: Living the Good Life”

Make America Great Again

Recently America reclaimed its preference of having a rich white man as the president, and this time he is an outspoken millionaire business man turned reality TV star who unabashedly encourages bigotry, racism, sexism, and myriad other isms and things that can potentially lead to oppression, violence, and the glorification of hatred as a viable option for change.  People who did not vote for Mr. Trump feel everything from blindsided to sorrowful to angry to depressed to resigned to hopeless.  People who did vote for him [likely] feel everything from elated to vindicated to satisfied to safe to, I daresay,  confused.  I imagine that people everywhere, no matter how they voted, or even if they didn’t vote, feel the enormity of what has been brought to the surface in the last few days.  Mr. Trump got as far as he did in the election because he feeds into all of the insecurities that a large portion of Americans have, from unemployment to national security to big government.  He feeds the fears, and fear, when fed, grows without bounds.  Unprocessed fear allows people to act in ways they wouldn’t normally act, and brings out the parts that usually stay in the shadows.  And when you can invite someone who has been afraid into feeling safe and righteous instead, even if it means inciting violence and rage, and even if they don’t agree with some (or most) of what you stand for, often times, you win their loyalty.  Continue reading “Make America Great Again”

To Dance With Mountains

What would it be like to dance with mountains?  To sway with the majestic alpine wildflowers that dot the valleys, or to listen to the whisper of clear snowmelt as it cascades to lower ground over a bed of stones smoothed to perfection?  To kiss the pine needles, to breathe the scent of ancient bedrock mystery?  Or to walk in step with the peaks that have been stripped of life, or the valleys that have been clearcut and left for dead? The toxic rivers, the tundra fracked of life, the homeless topsoil that can’t hold on?  How do we love our failed expectations alongside our beautiful victories? How can our defeats, our poor choices, and our monsters co-exist with our grace, our goodness, and our love? How do we embrace them all and hear what they have to say?

Dance with mountains.
Continue reading “To Dance With Mountains”

Broken Open

The sorrow, grief, and rage you feel is a measure of your humanity and your evolutionary maturity. As your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. 

~Joanna Macy

Politics.  Human decency.  Disrespect.  Self-hatred.  Governmental control.  Fear. Complacency.  Planetary destruction.  Stealing.   Dishonoring sacred sites.  Destroying nations.  The despair of the poor.   The despair of the rich.  Outrage.  Ignorance.  Brushing it under the rug.  Dishonesty.  Hope.  Hopelessness. Wondering.  Paying the bills.  Running away.  Feeling stuck.

This list could continue on for some time.  The words that describe what’s happening on the planet earth right now are many, and they don’t always make you  want to jump for joy or sigh in relief.   Of course, there is goodness and that which is worthy of gratitude alongside the parts that make you want to scream in frustration or shake someone.  But sometimes it’s hard to notice the good stuff.  Continue reading “Broken Open”

A Hidden Wholeness

Five hours west of here, indigenous people from 300 tribes around the world have gathered in prayer and protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Each week more tribes announce their solidarity with the people of Standing Rock, offering up songs of healing and prayers for the protection of the earth’s water.  A fellow resident of the St. Croix Valley took her three young daughters to deliver winter supplies to those who have  put their regular lives on hold to stand in protection of this essential Missouri River watershed.  Others remain committed to oil and the short term promises it makes. Tension builds, and armed police continue to gather in opposition while the main steam media remains quiet.

The wind has been blowing the last few days, ushering in the colder air from the north to let summer know the time for blossoming and long days of outdoor warmth are over.  The forecast for tonight calls for a freeze, and I brought in all of the vegetables and fruits that still lingered in the fields.  The water from the hose I used to wash the leeks and potatoes felt like ice, and I moved quickly to get the job done.   Continue reading “A Hidden Wholeness”

Autumn’s Paradox

It has been a busy month.  September always seems to mean racing to prepare life for winter.  Of course we could do some of these things before we HAVE to do them, but it doesn’t seem to happen that way, year after year.  So we fly around in September getting fire wood cut and stacked, filling fuel tanks, mowing the grass a few more times, winterizing motors, cleaning the chimney…..the list is long, and usually expensive.  Things feel really hard, tempers are short, work days seem long and sometimes it feels like a hopeless cause to try to change anything at all.  But here we are on the first day of autumn, and the list is getting done.  We have firewood stacked, the septic is pumped, the furnace is tuned up, and we still have funds to the other things we need to do, even if we won’t be going on any European vacations anytime soon.

Autumn is a paradox. The leaves are changing, the harvest is coming in and the warmer temperatures this year mean the blackberries are still putting new blossoms on their brambles.    There is vibrant tree color alongside the withering of the annuals I planted in the spring.  There is the fresh possibility of a new school year alongside the mourning of summer’s sense of freedom.  There is hope for a late freeze alongside a yearning for the day the temperature drops far enough to bring many kinds of garden work (and allergies) to a halt.   We feel like we will never have enough, yet we always have more than we need. Continue reading “Autumn’s Paradox”

The Blue of Longing

When I hear the words “the blue of longing,” I am transported to a dusty red four-speed Toyota that doesn’t have air conditioning, and I’m driving west across South Dakota.  It’s August and there’s a cassette tape playing since no radio stations will tune in without static.  After miles of corn fields give way to miles of grassy pasture; after the Missouri river valley gives way to rolling tall grass prairie; after I cross through the barren beauty of Badlands spires reaching toward the sky, after the signs for Wall Drug say, “wait, you missed it!”……after all of that I finally come to the place where the Black Hills loom in the distance, and I marvel at the sudden change in the horizon.  There is a reason these mountains are called what they are – when they appear in the windshield, it is like looking into layer upon layer of coal colored refreshment against the brightness of a late summer sky.  I am astonished at the majestic expanse that commands my sight lines and the welcoming darkness of what lays ahead.  Surely there is myth and magic to be found once I arrive at this oasis.  And then at some point as I continue on the westward journey, it’s gone.  Once I reach the point where identifying individual hills and trees is possible, the black has vanished and only the landscape remains.  They are just hills, now – beautiful and sacred as they always were, but the mystery that came with the space that was once between me and the place I sought is as gone as the distance that was closed to nothing.  And when I look up and out past the place where the hills give way to grasslands again, I can see hints of the next place that I seek, and the color that tints that desire to arrive.   The myth and magic remains just around the next corner. Continue reading “The Blue of Longing”

Kayak Morning

To be alive is to totally and openly participate in the simplicity and elegance of here and now. ~Donald Altman

I glide though the silence of early morning fog rising from the river, my kayak paddle slicing through the glassy water, propelling me forward into the next moment, and the next, and the next.   I am not always good about doing this, but sometimes in the time just after dawn as the sun starts to claim ownership of the sky, I am able to be in each moment, not thinking about the last one, not anticipating the next one. I am able to just be present, one paddle slice or step or breath at a time. Simple elegance, one paddle slice at a time.

kayak

We spent this past week about 500 miles from home, in a little yellow cottage outside of Manistique, Michigan. Perched on the southern shore of the state’s upper peninsula and the northern shore of Lake Michigan, my husband’s family has roots deep in the sandy shores and waters and lore of the small lakeside town and its surrounding forests. It’s a place of simplicity if you choose it, and an elegance of a different sort than is usually conjured from the term. I suppose you could say it’s a place where they have always gone to be present. To simplify the pace of the days and let the slow energy of a summer vacation take the reins. Continue reading “Kayak Morning”

A Wild Dare

Like Leonard Cohen, singing of loss and love, make clear the beauty of what we stand to lose or what we have already destroyed. Celebrate the microscopic sea-angels. Celebrate the children who live in the cold doorways and shanty camps. Celebrate the swamp at the end of the road. Leave no doubt of the magnitude of their value and the enormity of the crime, to let them pass away unnoticed. These are elegies, these are praise songs, these are love stories.

-Kathleen Dean Moore

Continue reading “A Wild Dare”